South Africa eases tight grip of Covid-19 pandemic related regulations on global shipping and seafarers.

Pretoria: 07 July 2020

An appeal by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on Member States to find ways to facilitate greater ease of operation for global shipping amid the strife to effectively manage the spectre of the Covid-19 pandemic has found a kind ear in South Africa.

Among such steps taken by South Africa is the immediate extension of the expiration of seafarers certificates by no less than six months from June 2020 to 31 December 2020, or such other period as may be necessary and allowed, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

The arrangement is similarly applicable to vessels whose certificates are due to expire during to the lockdown, granted an extension of up to three (months) provided an application is made well in advance.

SAMSA File Photo

According to SAMSA, the concessions are contained in a correspondence submitted by Government to the IMO a week ago, outling the measures South Africa is taking to ease the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown regulations implemented since March 2020 in the country, and varinglyper time period worldwide, with major negative impacts on global shipping operations.

The newly introduced measures, outlined in even greater detail in circulars including an accompanying Marine Notice 34 of 2020 published last Thursday, 02 July 2020 are, according to SAMSA, in response to a recent call by the IMO on Member States to ease up on lockdown regulations to enable less interruption on global shipping.

The IMO call, with the full backing of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), found even greater expression during the global marking of the international Day of the Seafarer 2020, in South Africa and across the world on 25 June 2020.

“Shipping is truly a global industry and we need Governments to provide a global solution,” the ITF was qouted as saying.

According Mr Stephen Cotton, ITF General Secretary, as reported by the IMO, the workers organisation received emails from hundreds of seafarers daily, expressing their concern about contracts being extended under duress, amid fears that this would impact their ability to perform safe operations, thereby putting themselves at risk as well as the global supply chain and potentially the environment.   

In also calling for ‘leadership and action’, the ICS reportedly said ‘during the COVID-19 pandemic, ships, which fundamentally depend on seafarers, have continued to carry essential goods across the globe.’

Mr Guy Platten, Secretary-General of ICS reportedly said that ‘the number of stranded seafarers [was] currently 400,000, with 200,000 needing to leave ships and a similar number needing to replace them.’

In response to the IMO call, South Africa last week acknowledged and submitted that: “The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the maritime value chain, including the ability of Maritime Administrations and the recognised organisations to deliver services necessary for statutory certification of seafarers and vessels. Furthermore, the issues about manning of ships, crew changes and search and rescue services are receiving necessary attention.

Immediate new measures South Africa confirmed to have introduced relate both to seafarers certification with respect to validity of seafarers certificates, medical and eyesight certificates and safe manning of ships; as well as ships certificates and surveys.

With respect to seafarers certification, the country states: “SAMSA has considered the predicament many seafarers and their employers are finding themselves in and have (sic) granted an extension until 31 December 2020 to any certificate that expires during the national lockdown and/or shortly thereafter.

“The masters, seafarers and employers must produce a letter for extension of their Certificates – http://www.samsa.org.za/Pages/Marine-Notices.aspx
Where appropriate, seafarers and/or employers may apply to SAMSA for the issuance with a specific letter to each seafarers in accordance with the applicable Marine Notice.”

On medical and eyesight certificates SAMSA grants that: “Medical Certificates for seafarers shall remain valid as issued. Under the measurers in place to combat COVID-19, medical practitioners will still be operating and seafarers will be allowed to visit the medical practitioner (doctor) for medical examination.

“Seafarers whose medical certificates expires whilst onboard a ship may continue to serve on that ship for three (3) months from the expiration date in accordance with STCW Regulation I/9.”

In respect of safe manning of ships SAMSA instructs that: “Ship operators must inform SAMSA regarding any challenges with seafarers holding foreign CoC with regards to revalidation and obtaining an endorsement to their CoC.

“SAMSA will not issue an endorsement to a foreign COC unless such certificate is still valid, except where there is a policy from that administration regarding the same.”

Regarding vessels certificates and surveys, SAMSA advises that: “Vessels which are subject to International Conventions (and) whose statutory certification are due for renewal, and there is difficulty with the attendance by a surveyor, may apply for extension of certificates by up to three (3) months. Such application shall be made within reasonable time to ensure continued compliance with all statutory requirements.”

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New off-shore bunkering services in SA break the wave for new novice black entrepreneurs

Port Eizabeth: 26 June 2020

The fledgling offshore ships bunkering services established four years ago in Algoa Bay may be beginning to live up to its economic promise, as business opportunities expand to new business entrants, some hitherto with little if any experience in shipping or any related maritime business sector services.

Lacking most in such area of business operations are largely black South Africans whose exposure to, and participation in maritime sector businesses is decidedly limited.

This is so even as South Africa is essentially a maritime country with direct access to three oceans stretching over a 3,200 kilometres coastline bordering a 1.5-million km2 of an ocean water space designated as its Exclusive Economic Zone: – from the Atlantic Ocean in the west, through the Southern Ocean, and to the Indian Ocean in the east.

As such, when black folk make a decisive break into the sector, as has recently a young black budding business entrepreneur from Port Elizabeth, the promise of the country’s maritime economic sector redevelopment and expansion positively contributing to South Africa’s broad economic development through inclusion and wealth redistribution to all, finds realisation.

South Africa’s offshore bunkering services on the Indian Ocean near the city of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape province was officially sanctioned and set up in 2016, launched successively with two highly experienced major oil ship transfer services suppliers; first the Greece based operator, Minerva Bunkering (formerly Aegean Marine Petroleum, and thereafter, SA Marine Fuels – the latter an all local black women founded company, now part owned by Hong Kong based global oil products group, Orxy Energies.

By end 2019, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), no less than 100 ships on average per month annually had docked near the ocean city since, for bunkering and related services and in the process, fuelling the injection of hundreds of millions of rands into the local economy.

For a while however, associated shipping business services in the new offshore bunkering services subsector remained confined to a few chandlers’ hands – two, according to SAMSA – all of which were long serving and highly experienced maritime sector white owned and managed businesses.

Five years on in early 2020, a local young black man from a Port Elizabeth township, New Brighton, Mr Hintsa, Carlos Mpe broke ground by becoming the first black Small, Micro and Medium Enterprise (SMME) category business owner to gain entry in the provision of maritime sector business services to visiting ships in Algoa Bay.

Mr Mpe who, by his own admission, until very recently, had never before been on a boat at sea in his young life this despite having been born and grew up in a Port Elizabeth township only less than three kilometers from the Indian Ocean, made the breakthough by establishing a small services firm, called Mthi Wembotyi Projects in 2017, and acquiring a year later, a 16-meters long steel boat to render off-port-limits (OPL) ship services to vessels visiting the area.

According to Mr Mpe during an interview, his interest in the maritime sector business services was sparked by the gradual sprawl of big ships of all shapes now regularly putting anchor in the ocean off the coast of Port Elizabeth, mostly for crew changes and bunkering services.

” I was actually jogging down the Brighton Beach one day and saw all these ships that were floating lazily on the ocean and began to wonder what it was they doing there.

“From then on I began researching and soon found out that they are here for bunkering and related services, and I became interested in getting involved,” said Mr Mpe during an interview in Port Elizabeth.

Mr Hntsa Carlos Mpe

Having put his few ducks in a row, including acquiring the OPL boat from a local boat builder, his first real break into actually delivering services came early in 2020 after a local chandler, Vrontado Marine Services, headed by operations manager, James Bilsbury acquired his services.

Mr Mpe had come knocking at his services company’s front door, brokering business and according to Mr Bilsbury, on assessment during a meeting, they were satisfied with his offering.

“We are a ship chandling company which means we supply foreign vessels with provisions, technical, and other stores they might require. These stores sometimes need to be delivered to vessels at anchorage in our bay.

“Carlos called us one day and made an appointment to come and see us about doing some launches together (to deliver our stores at anchorage). He came to the meeting and introduced himself and his company to us.

“We explained in the meeting what we required of him before we can do business together. He met our demands and we have since done two deliveries to vessels at anchorage area using the launch boat called Crest.

“We have done the vessel MAASGRACHT on 28 May, carrying 2.6 tons in seven (7) bulk bags. Then we have done the MANDARIN vessel on the 31 May carrying four (4) tons in 10 bulk bags,” confirmed Mr Bilsbury.

Next for Mr Mpe was a deal with Heron Marine, a bunkering services company contracted to fuel four huge cruise vessels owned by Carnival which were passing the city on their way around the world to disembark thousands of seafarers caught up in the impacts of the current Covid-19 pandemic.

One of the four Carnival cruise ships, the Carnival Dream, required to take bunkers offshore while seat anchorage and this required more services than would ordinarily be the case with onshore refuelling at a port.

Mr Mpe’s role was to help shift to place, in between the cruise ship and the refuelling tanker, a massive barge with fenders, as well as lineup other protection equipment necessary for a safe transfer of oil from one vessel to the other.

“It was quite an exciting thing to do, getting that barge and all other equipment in place for the bunkering service, ” said Mr Mpe.

His engagement by Heron Marine however, was in keeping with the company’s commitment to create and provide business opportunities to emerging small businesses, but especially those from the black SMME sector, according to Heron Marine CEO, Ms Kgomotso Selokane.

“In our commitment to our license requirements, we use local suppliers as much as possible. In this operation specifically we procured the services of a drone operator to take footage of the entire operation.

“However, the pinnacle of our excitement was how we committed ourselves, as an entity, to SAMSA’s SMME Development requirement, as our mooring boat was provided by a local 100% Black Owned SMME,” she said in reference to Mr Mpe’s small firm’s engagement in the special operation.

Mr Mpe says the going has been tough but also rewarding so far, and he looks forward to making more inroads into the sector. However, this be hastened by direct investment into growing the business – something he hopes the business investment sector will be kind to.

“I want to grow this business and become a big business operator,” he said.

Meanwhile, SAMSA has applauded the development of the creation of opportunities for the entrance also of small black business operators in the country’s sole offshore bunkering services sector in the Eastern Cape.

According to SAMSA, a roleplayer and contributor to the implementation of the country’s Operation Phakisa (Oceans Economy) initiative lauched in 2014, bunkering in Algoa Bay plays a crucial role for the effective economic benefit of the local economy in Port Elizabeth (PE), Eastern Cape.  It has become an imperative for the local economy and the expansion of maritime sectors in PE.

Ms Bongiwe Stofile. SAMSA Southern Region Manager

SAMSA senior manager for the agency’s Southern Region (Mossel Bay to Port St Johns), Ms Bongiwe Stofile described it as an exciting development.

“This is a great achievement for us and the industry , as such we would like to celebrate it. It hasn’t been an easy process to instil a transformative mind-set in the industry and hence the recognition of first movers.” she said.

It is a view Ms Stofile also shared directly with the two companies that have so far contracted Mr Mpe’s small firm, Mthi Wembotyi Projects.

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Seafarers are essential workers at all times, global maritime industry advocates: DoT-SAMSA

Pretoria: 24 June 2020

The global maritime sector’s focus turn to celebrate the world’s estimated 1.6-million seafarers on Thursday, 25 June 2020 – a day declared an International Day of the Seafarer and marked annually- in acknowledgement and appreciation of the role of the labour sector for its contribution both to world trade over the oceans and associated activities at sea.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) along with its Member States, including South Africa, celebrate the day this year with a key theme message; #Seafarers Are Key Workers, conceptualised to advance a growing realisation that the world’s seafarers are essential workers.

In South Africa on Thursday, according to the Department of Transport (DoT) and the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), the country will mark the event Thursday with a virtual session involving invited guests and a panel of about 30 people, and which will be livestreamed to the public between 10am and 12 noon. (For more on this, click on the blog’s Seafarers Day dedicated page Here)

In a statement, the entities said: “The Day of the Seafarer is observed every year on the 25th of June by all IMO member states to pay tribute to millions of seafarers from across the globe, for their unique contribution to international seaborne trade, the world economy and civil society as a whole.

“Each year, the Day of the Seafarer adopts a campaign theme and the theme for 2020 is “Seafarers are Key Workers”. The 2020 campaign seeks to raise awareness of the work of seafarers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to thank them for their contribution. Seafarers are on the frontline of the COVID-19 response, playing an essential role in maintaining the flow of vital goods, such as food, medicines and medical supplies.

Thursday’s virtual session, involving a panel of about six (6) members and up to 30 participants from stakeholders and roleplayers in the country’s maritime economic sector, will be led by Transport Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula.

Other participants scheduled include Master Mariner, Ms Constance Nengohvela, maritime studies educationist, Ms Theresa Williams, marine engineer Mr Khomotso Makgae, Amsol human resource executive, Mr Nceba Mfini, international Transport Workers Federation (ITF) official Mr Steve Yandell, Mr Odwa Mtati, Chief Executive Officer of the South African International Maritime Institute, Mr Sobantu Tilayi, SAMSA acting CEO and others.

South Africa Transport Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula

In the statement ahead of the event, Mbalula said: “We acknowledge the sacrifices of the seafarers and the adverse effects of the Corona Virus on their personal and professional wellbeing. The outbreak of COVID-19 has exacerbated seafarers’ already difficult working conditions, as it has led to the restriction of port access, crew changeovers and repatriations, in an attempt to flatten the curve.  

“Many seafarers have been away from home for months and are uncertain about when they will be able to return home or go back to their international posts, due to global travel restrictions. The South African Government is mindful of this dire situation and is doing all it can to ensure that seafarers are prioritised as the economy gradually reopens”, said the Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula. 

In South Africa SAMSA, the DOT and other maritime institutions will host a virtual discussion to mark the Day of the Seafarer. The virtual discussion will be held on 25 June 2020, from 10h00 until 12h00, and attended by key stakeholders in the maritime industry. Seafarers will use the opportunity to highlight issues affecting them during the prevalence of COVID-19,” he said.

For more on the programme for Thursday’ event, Click Here

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A SLIVER OF A SILVER LINING – Covid-19 pandemic outbreak breaks new ground for SA bunkering services firm in PE

Port Elizabeth: 09 June 2020

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in China some six months ago has without doubt brought about the greatest health risk globally and, in its wake, by some accounts, the biggest economic threat and devastation in more than 100 years.

Yet as the old adage has it: ‘every dark cloud has a silver lining,’ so it turns out that the outbreak of the pandemic that’s forced many countries to close their borders, would also lead to new business opportunities for others that were not readily available before, and in the process, giving rise to creative thinking and innovation.

The Carnival Dream at anchor off the coast of Port Elizabeth receiving bunkering services during its last visit to South Africa to disembark cruise liner seafarers.

Heron Marine, a black woman owned bunkering services company based in Port Elizabeth is one such business operator to be presented with an opportunity that would call for its creativeness in delivering services to four huge international cruise vessels it has never serviced before.

According to Kgomotso Selokane, Chief Executive Officer of Heron Marine, four international cruise liners from Carnival, namely, the Carnival Dream, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Conquest and Carnival Ecstasy, came calling into the port of Ngqura in May.

The call into South African ports by these four cruise liners – among several similar – was to disembark the country’s seafarers who – along with the entire cruise line industry– have become economic victims of the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

Enroute to disembarking crew at Durban and other ports outside of South Africa the Carnival cruise ships required replenishments, among which was fuel for the journey to return home their thousands of seafarers rendered stranded due to closure of the industry worldwide.

Unlike its three sisters, the Carnival Dream – at 130,000gt and 305.47 meters long, with a guest capacity of some 3646 people as well as 1367 crew members – was to be refuelled seat anchorage. That presented some interesting challenges.

According to Ms Selokane, due to the configuration of the vessel and barge, the actual refuelling operation at anchorage required for the first time, the utilisation of a spacer barge with two Yokahama fenders on either side to serve as a bulwark between the company’s bunker barge and the cruise ship. In turn, this required not only tugs to shove and hold vessels in place, but also the utilisation of a mooring boat to layout oil booms to cover stern of the vessel.

Once arrangements had been finalised,  and with a keen eye constantly on the weather conditions as the refuelling had to be conducted in open anchorage , Heron Marine called on, among others,  Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) for assistance with tugs and consulted with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) to ensure compliance with the strictest safety standards during the bunkering operation.

The final alignment of all parties and equipment and calm weather conditions allowed for a successful refuelling of the Carnival Dream by one of Heron Marine’s bunkering barges, the Bonaire Trader.

She added: “SAMSA and TNPA’s approvals… demonstrated South Africa’s commitment to implementing the Comprehensive Maritime Transport Policy’s (CMTP) in making the country an international maritime centre, but more so our contribution to the global maritime economy during these trying times.”

Part of the economic contribution involved the deliberate utilisation of all local based services suppliers for support infrastructure, she said

“In our commitment to our license requirements, we use local suppliers as much as possible. In this operation specifically we procured the services of a drone operator to take footage of the entire operation.

“However, the pinnacle of our excitement was how we committed ourselves, as an entity, to SAMSA’s SMME Development requirement, as our mooring boat was provided by a local 100% Black Owned SMME.

“We would really like to thank SAMSA and the TNPA team for allowing this operation to take place and supporting its precedence as a first of its kind offshore ALGOA BAY or maybe even South Africa. “Working together like this is a true indication of our South African Spirit – not matter what we endeavour,” said Ms Selokane.

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Rebuilding SA’s ship register remains vital to maritime sector development: SAMSA

The port of Ngqurha near Port Elizabeth is South Africa’s newest deep water port. (SAMSA File Photo.)

Pretoria: 05 June 2020

The rebuilding of a South Africa ship register and development of a greater population awareness about, and a viable channel of education and training through to meaningful engagement of people through careers remain pivotal to redevelopment and expansion of the country’s maritime sector, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

This view was among several articulated by SAMSA’s acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sobantu Tilayi during a live national radio interview on Tuesday this week.

Mr Sobantu Tilayi. Acting CEO. South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

According to Mr Tilayi, the rallying call for special focus on redeveloping the country’s ship register – currently with no more than half a dozen vessels under the country’s flag – was based on empirical evidence based on the massive economic contribution that shipping makes, inclusive of education and training as well as significant jobs creation.

In the 20 minutes radio interview, he briefly unpacked the country’s maritime economic sector’s Government led initiative, Operation Phakisa (Ocean Economy) launched in 2014 aimed at not only repositioning the sector into the country’s main economic development agenda, but also to facilitate redevelopment as well as expansion of the maritime sector inclusive of all the country’s people.

Offshore ships bunkering services now being offered near the port of Port Elizabeth (SAMSA File Photo)

Mr Tilayi also explained briefly the rationale behind the recent set up of a major ship bunkering service along the country’s south-eastern sea, the Indian Ocean near Port Elizabeth. He described it as exemplifying the numerous business and economic opportunities the country is able to explore for further growth.

For the full interview, click below:

“Unpacking South Africa’s ocean economy”. A PowerFM interview with South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA Acting CEO, Mr Sobantu Tilayi

The radio interview is reproduced here in full, courtersy of PowerFM.

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Shipping incidents on South Africa’s oceans keep SAMSA on its toes.

Pretoria: 02 June 2020

UPDATE TWO: FINAL

The stricken crude oil tanker, Yua Hua Hu, is expected to finally reach the port of Durban sometime on Tuesday, in the tow of a tug, after more than seven days of reporting problems while sailing through South Africa’s Wild Coast on the Indian Ocean, reportedly on its way from Singapore to Libya on the west coast of Africa.

According to SAMSA in an update report, the vessel left Port St Johns coastline at about lunchtime on Saturday, under tow by the tug Pacific Dolphin, to the port of Durban and was expected to arrive at the port sometime on Tuesday.       

The China flagged tanker was not carrying any cargo when it began experiencing problems a week ago in the vicinity of a South African part of the Indian Ocean that is historically known for its Wild Coast which over years have claimed many a vessel.

The tankers crew was reported to be safe.

End

Pretoria: 28 May 2020

UPDATE:

Pretoria: Thursday 04.30pm (GMT)

The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) continues to monitor the stricken crude tanker off port St Johns.

The tanker, the VLCC Yua Hua Hu remains safely anchored in 35 metres of water just off Port St. John’s. The vessel was monitored throughout the night and SAMSA can confirm that the vessel anchor is holding.

The tug “Siyanda” secured a tow to the stern of the tanker last night and is currently static towing the tanker while she is at anchor, awaiting the larger tug “Pacific Dolphin” to arrive on Saturday. The Pacific Dolphin has a bollard pull of 220 tonnes and will be used to tow the tanker to the port of Durban for repairs to her Main Engine and Stern Tube. The weather conditions do not present a threat to the vessel at this time.

______________________________________________________________________________

Efforts continue in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of South Africa to save a stricken large oil tanker that reportedly ran aground on Tuesday, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)

The incident, one of three reported during the week involving commercial vessels in distress along South Africa’s oceans, involves a Chinese flagged super oil-tanker, YUA HUA HU which reportedly experienced unidentified problems while sailing through South Africa’s Indian Ocean area known as the Wild Coast on Tuesday.

The vessel was believed to have been sailing from Singapore to Angola on the west coast of Africa. SAMSA in a statement on Wednesday said the agency through its Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC) based in Cape Town, was coordinating an emergency response to the immobilised large crude carrier, offshore of the Wild Coast near Port St Johns.

“The tanker is safely anchored one nautical mile off Dome Bluff on the outskirts of Port St Johns and being monitored by the MRCC. The tanker is not carrying any cargo. All 27 crew on-board the casualty vessel is reported to be safe and no injuries have been reported,’ reported SAMSA

The agency added that emergency rescue arrangements involved among others, the deployment of a tug owned by AMSOL from Durban. It was expected to rendevous with the stricken tanker at about 8pm on Wednesday.

“She will act as the standby tug until the arrival of the emergency towing tug (ETV), which was deployed from Cape Town this morning with an experienced Salvage Master on-board. The ETV is due to arrive at the tanker within 48hrs.

As part of the rescue effort, no less than five stations of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) along the Indian Ocean coastline, from Durban to East London with rescue swimmers, as well as a Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) helicopter would be on standy overnight, should they be needed, said SAMSA.

In addition, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DEFF) had also placed its Tier 1 Oil Pollution Response team and a privately owned Smit International Salvage team were also on alert, ready to deploy from Cape Town.

“SAMSA remains in direct communication with the vessel owner representatives and the master, who is providing their full cooperation to contain the threat to the South African coastline,” said SAMSA

Meanwhile on the west coast (Atlantic Ocean), SAMSA reported two other shipping incidents; one off Cape Town involving a cargo ship that had apparently caught on fire, and another in Saldahna Bay involving a fishing vessel that had run aground after being on caught on rocks at sea near the port.

According to SAMSA, in the Cape Town incident on Monday (25 May 2020), a vessel requested to anchor off port of Cape Town due to fire onboard. “Permission was granted to allow vessel Master and crew to fight the fire under a controlled environment.

“The cause of the fire had yet to be ascertained, but reported to have started from cargo hold number 6. The vessel Master also confirmed an explosion from the ship, resulting in the loss of two containers overboard. The vessel was then escorted by a sister ship MV XIN AN NING to the port of Cape Town.

“A first response team comprising of Salvage Master, SAMSA surveyors and  City of Cape Town Firefighters boarded the vessel via helicopter to complete a damage assessment and determine the safety risk that the vessel posed, after which they agreed that it was safe for the vessel to board in the port.”

Further up the west coast, in Saldanha Bay, according to SAMSA, a “vessel ran aground at the harbour entrance yesterday, with 32 crew members onboard. National Sea Rescue Institute was activated and attended to the incident.

“The vessel is off the rocks and will be towed into port by a harbour tug boat. No oil spill has been reported at this stage, and a pollution boom has been deployed around the vessel as precautionary measure.

“The vessel was successfully refloated and brought into Saldanha and berthed alongside without any pollution incident. The vessel is now under tow, by the SA Amandla Tug, to Cape Town. The estimated date of arrival in Cape Town is 05 June 2020,” said SAMSA.

End.

Cruise-liners at SA ports despite Covid-19 pandemic related ban explained: SAMSA

A cruiseliner at the port of Port Elizabeth (SAMSA file photo)

Pretoria: 20 May 2020

An occassional sight of cruise-liners at South African ports during this Covid-19 lockdown period – a most trying time during which national regulations currently disallow domestic ports call – should not surprise anyone.

According to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in a statement this week, far from offering the usual jolly rides across the oceans to thousands of leisure and entertainment seeking passengers, the cruiseliners calling at the country’s ports are returning home crew members.

SAMSA in its statement on Tuesday, reported no less than eight such cruise-liners calling on the country’s ports all to disembark dozens of their South African crew members, as they do to their crew members of other countries across the world.

Among these vessels were the Crown Princess and Island Princess which, according to SAMSA, called at the port of Cape Town on 16 May 2020 with close on 4 000 crew members on board between them, and about 100 of which were South Africans.

“The Crown Princess arrived in South Africa with 2 139 crew members, of which 30 are South African. The Crown Princess is used by the owners to repatriate crews stranded aboard their vessels and is due to proceed to other international ports in order to disembark other crew members.

“The vessel  disembarked SA crew and SA medical team while in Cape Town, who have been on-board the vessel for some time and required to be relieved by a fresh crew.

All South African Crew has disembarked and special permission was granted for a fresh medical team to embark to allow for the vessel to meet safe manning requirements before it can proceed to another port. The disembarked crew was subjected to the local Covid-19 regulations and will quarantine for 14 days before they can proceed to join their families. The vessel also took bunkers and supplies, before it sailed on 16 May 2020.

“The Island Princess also arrived in Cape Town on the 16 May 2020 with 1 416 crew, of which 62 are South African. The vessel will disembark the South African crew before leaving Cape Town,” reported SAMSA.

Other vessels reporting at the country’s ports during this period were confirmed as follows:

  • ROTTERDAM: 800 crew members; 12 South Africans. ETA port of Cape Town, 18 May 2020.
  • MS Le Bougainville: Purpose; to replenish stores and take bunkers. ETA port of Richards Bay; 19 May 2020.
  • ZUIDERDAM: Crew numbers TBC. ETA port of Cape Town, 20th May 2020.
  • VEENDAM: 626 crew members; 49 South Africans. ETA port of Cape Town; 23 May 2020
  • CARNIVAL DREAM: Crew members TBC. ETA port of Port Elizabeth; 25 May 2020.
  • CARNIVAL LIBERTY: 1601 crew mbembers, 4 south African. ETA port of Port Elizabeth; 25 May 2020.
  • CARNIVAL ECSTACY: Crew members TBC. ETA port of Port Elizabeth; 25 May 2020..
  • CARNIVAL CONQUEST: Cew members TBC. ETA port of Port Elizabeth; 25 May 2020.
  • CARNIVAL FASCINATION: Crew members tBC. ETA port of Durban; 27 May 2020.

The organisation said: “SAMSA continues to work with the department of Transport, other government departments and government agencies to ensure that all regulations relating Covid-19 are enforced and followed by the maritime industry.

“These regulations, among others prohibit cruise liner calls into any of the South African Ports, any crew changes, any disembarkations apart from returning South African citizens or permanent residents.”

End

Panama bulk carrier detained in South Africa released, with stern warning: SAMSA

Pretoria: 24 April 2020

A Panama-flagged bulk carrier, the Top Grace, that was detained in South Africa last month after it was found to have thrown overboard two stowaways off the KwaZulu-Natal coast has been released, according to the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

The release of the vessel in Richards Bay on Thursday occurred accompanied by a stern warning to shipping vessels traversing South Africa’s oceans waters that they will be subjected to the fullest might of the law whenever found to have transgressed the country’s maritime laws.

In a statement in Pretoria on Friday, SAMSA said the release of the Top Grace on Thursday in Richards Bay was made after a thorough investigation, including a criminal prosecution of the crew, was conducted successfully by relevant South African authorities into the incident of a throw away at sea of two men by the vessels’ crew on or about 23 March 2020.

At the time according to SAMSA, it was alleged that the two stowaways had boarded the vessel “Top Grace” while it was berthed at Maydon Wharf in Durban on Monday 23th March 2020. They had climbed up the mooring ropes and hid in the bulk carrier’s chain locker.  

The two stowaways, both Tanzanians, reportedly claimed then that after being discovered hiding on the ship, after it had set sail, the vessels’ crew threw them overboard with a make-shift raft, life jackets and some bottles of water. They told authorities that they spent two days at sea before washing out at Zinkwazi beach on the North Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Subsequent to that incident at sea, the vessel berthed at the Richards Bay harbour and was detained.

On Friday, SAMSA said the crew had since settled the fines imposed on it by a Durban court of law after it was found guilty of a criminal offence relating to the stowaways. Following to this, SAMSA also conducted its own separate investigation into the vessel’s possible breach of Section 9 (3) of the Maritime Traffic Act.

“SAMSA detained the MV Top Grace from 17 April 2020 – 23 April 2020 in Richards Bay in order to conduct an investigation into circumstances surrounding two foreign stowaways being forced off the vessel approximately three (3) nautical miles off the coast of South Africa.

“After the successful conviction of the Master and Crew for attempted murder, who were released after payment of a fine, SAMSA was then able to proceed with its own investigation without compromising the SAPS criminal investigation.

“The vessel was detained by SAMSA in terms of section 9(3) of the Marine Traffic Act for breaking innocent passage and causing prejudice to the peace, good order and / or security of the Republic. (Innocent passage is a concept in the law of the sea that allows for a vessel to pass through the territorial waters of another state, subject to certain conditions.)

“SAMSA appointed shipping lawyers from Bowmans to assist SAMSA’s surveyors with the investigation and to ensure a speedy conclusion. Under the Marine Traffic Act, SAMSA had seven (7) days following the detention within which to complete the investigation. A high tech investigation was conducted using sophisticated methods of data retrieval and analysis (including retrieval of deleted items) and a team of five (5) interpreters was employed to work around the clock to interpret Mandarin texts into English.

“Following a thorough assessment of the findings of the investigation SAMSA concluded that any further action against the vessel would not be warranted, save for the payment of a detention fine. The fine was paid on 23rd April and the detention of the vessel immediately lifted,” said SAMSA in a statement.

SAMSA further stated: “The investigation demonstrates that SAMSA will spare no resource in proper enforcement of its coastal state obligations and in the pursuit of its mandate of safety of life at sea, protection of the marine environment and promoting the Republic’s maritime interests. It is noted that in appropriate circumstances, vessels that commit crimes may be forfeited to the state in terms of certain legislation enforced by SAMSA.

“SAMSA would like to once again warn vessels sailing through South Africa’s territorial waters that any vessels found to have transgressed the national laws will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. SAMSA implores all vessels and ship operators to act responsibly during this period of uncertainty. Improper treatment of stowaways will not be tolerated in any circumstances.

Meanwhile, SAMSA further called on ships at the country oceans waters to not hesitate to call for assistance during this period of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

“Should any vessel in South African waters experience difficulties of a humanitarian nature occasioned by Covid-19, this should be immediately reported to SAMSA, and SAMSA will endeavour to assist. The Covid-19 crisis is not an excuse to break the law. SAMSA will continue to assist and provide guidance to any vessel transiting South Africa’s territorial waters.”

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Plight of stranded SA seafarers abroad receiving Government attention: SAMSA

Pretoria: 20 April 2020

With an increasing number of South Africans reportedly stranded at airports across the world, among these, South African seafarers mainly on board cruise liners, efforts are being made across various Government departments in the country to bring about effective action to their aid.

This is according to the Department of Transport (DoT) in a statement in Pretoria on Monday, expressing the department’s appreciation of the crucial role its agency, the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is playing in the effort.

South Africa Transport Minister, Mr Fikile Mbalula

Minister of Transport, Mr Fikile Mbalula on Monday said hundreds of South African seafarers caught up in the massive storm of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pademic while in service on cruiseliners across world, had been successfully assisted to return.

However, there were still as many as 130 others still abroad in countries such Brazil, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Ghana.

According to Mr Mbalula, various Government departments; notably DoT, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), Deparment of Health and SAMSA were closely working together to arrange the safe transfer of the seafarers back to the country.

This was in addition to SAMSA’s work, alongside Transnet’s National Ports Authority (TNPA),  in the effective and efficient management of ship traffic along the country’s oceans, some of which sought urgent assistance at the country’s commercial ports for fuel and other supplies replenishments.

The DoT reported no less than 10 such cruiseliners, research vessels and related that had sought assistance at the country’s ports for replenishments since the closure of the country’s borders after the Government’s declaration of a State of National Disaster and introduction of a 35 day national lockdown in last month.

IMG_5534The stringent travel restriction measures imposed in South Africa and elsewhere led to a complete closure of all airports and the consequent grounding of passenger aircrafts globally in the wake of the outbreak and rampant spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic that had infected hundreds of thousands and killed tens of thousands in many countries .

One major cruise liners operator with a significant intake of South African seafarers, MSC Cruises announced shortly thereafter it had halted cruises globally for up to end of May 2020. A statement on its website read: “We at MSC Cruises have decided to further extend the halting of all our new cruise departures fleet-wide through to 29 May, in light of the continued extraordinary circumstances the world is facing in connection with the Covid-19 virus global health emergency.

“We have previously announced the temporary halting of all its ships globally through to 30 April. As governments across the globe have since further strengthened ashore public health and safety measures to protect local populations and contain the further spread of the virus, today’s decision by MSC Cruises to further extend this extraordinary measure aims to mirror and further support the effectiveness of such efforts.”

MSC Cruises further announced compensation packages for its South African seafares – “A voucher for the value of their current 2019/2020 cruise package, which they can redeem in the upcoming local cruise season in 2020/2021 Plus an on-board credit of $50 per cabin to be used on a cruise in the next local South African season 2020/2021″ 

20180603_134053

On Monday, Minister Mbalula said he: “…wishes to commend the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) for its continued work with Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) and the Department of Health in implementing the lockdown regulations, as they pertain to the maritime sector.

“The regulations prohibit cruise liners from docking at any South African Port, changing crew or disembarking foreign nationals. The vessels are only permitted to replenish fuel, stores and provisions and disembark South African crew, returning South African citizens and permanent residents

“SAMSA, an entity of the Department of Transport,  is also monitoring the repatriation of seafarers who are currently overseas and waiting for arrangements for their travel home to be finalised.

“To date there are currently about 130 crew members in Sao Paolo, London, Frankfurt, Italy and Ghana. The Seafarers are receiving assistance from their respective employers and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).

For its part, from as early as the second week of March, SAMSA, the country’s Registrar of Seafarers, announced special measures it would implement to facilitate for fast-tracking the speedy assistance of South African seafarers reportedly stranded abroad in a public notice placed also on its website.

Meanwhile, in addition to the half a dozen or so cruise liners and other vessels the country has had to handle during the national lockdown, DoT revealed also a list of those that were managed for Covid-19 infection.

The DoT listed these as including:

AIDAmira – docked in Cape Town on 16 March following a COVID-19 scare involving six AIDAmira passengers and two MV Corona bulk carrier crew, all of whom tested negative for the Corona Virus.

Arcadia – docked in Durban on 26 March. After COVID-19 test results came out negative for 13 asymptomatic individuals on board, the vessel docked to refuel and restock provisions, as well as allow six South African crew members to disembark and return home.

The Queen Mary 2 – docked in Durban on 31 March and disembarked six South African crew members, all of whom tested negative from COVID-19.

MSC Orchestra – currently working with the Department of Health to trace passengers following confirmation of positive test results for two individuals who cruised on 28 February and 16 March.

DoT said one vessel, a South African fishing vessel had its crew also quarantined in Cape Town as per regulations.

“The fishing vessel the CODESA 1 berthed in the Port of Cape Town on 11 April 2020. The Master and crew are all South African. The vessel has been out at sea, did not visit any other country nor port, and provides an essential service, but has been subjected to the 14-days quarantine period on-board upon return as per current regulations,” it said.

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Transport Minister announces reviewal of restrictions at SA ports

Pretoria: 31 March 2020

Following to concerns and consultations between Government, industry and affected parties, the Department of Transport has announced relaxation of some of the strict restrictions on maritime sector activities, particularly around the country’s ports.

The revised measures aimed at alleviating pressure on particularly trade goods movement and handling as well as personnel such as ships crews were announced by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) in a new Marine Notice 21 issued in Ptetoria on Tuesday, as approved by the Department of Transport recently.

DOTIn particular, the Marine Notice addresses such issues as crew changes at the country’s commercial ports, revised regulations on the management of cargo vessels as well as the loading and off loading of cargo, all of which faced tough measures before, some of which included an outright ban.

According to SAMSA in the notice, these tough measures had come about as a result of the spread of the corona virus (Covid-19) pandemic globally following its outbreak in China in December 2019.

SAMSA states: “On 23 March 2020, the President of the Republic (of South Africa) declared a lockdown, effective from 23:59 on Thursday, 26 March 2020, for a period of 21 days, to stop the spread of the COVID-19 corona virus until 23:59 on Thursday, 16 April 2020. 

SAMSA Master Logo“In compliance with the lockdown, the Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) has sent out numerous communications on how the ports will be operating during this period.”

Following the revision of the tough restrictions since put in place at the outset of the national lockdown, SAMSA confirmed the following were now effective:

  • All South African ports remain open for port operations
  • Cargo operations will continue in all ports
  • Stevedore operations will continue in all ports and
  • All types of cargo will be allowed to be loaded and off loaded (and not just essential cargo).

According to SAMSA: “The Department of Transport recognises that there have been numerous instructions distributed by various entities, causing confusion amongst various entities, service providers and shipping companies. The Department of Transport would therefore like to clarify all requirements during the lockdown period as follows.

SOUTH AFRICAN PORTS

DSC_8149All South African Commercial Ports will remain operational for Cargo Work. These are Cape Town, Saldanha, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, Port of Ngqura, East London, Durban,  and Richards Bay.

CARGO OPERATIONS

DSC_0872Following on the initial announcement by the President, there have been changes such as the enablement of the mining companies to approach their regulator Ministry on an individual basis and seek authorisation to continue operations, albeit on a limited basis.

Government has now decided that in the interest of ensuring a functional supply chain across all ports, that all cargoes will be accepted for loading and off-loading. Where possible, essential goods should receive preferential treatment over non-essential goods.

Transnet will be in a position to communicate which of its operations will be reactivated with the relevant customers and logistics partners.

Transnet will reactivate certain of its operations, these would be at a reduced level and not full capacity. The reactivated operations will be dictated to by the applicable regulatory framework, national priorities and contribution to the health of the economy and Transnet’s ability to deploy its resources, having regard to people safety, which is of paramount importance.

Transnet’s current priorities, in addition to all the essential services previously communicated, are: .

  • The integrated container logistics system mainly around the Port of Durban and the link to the economic hub in Gauteng – ensuring that the complex system remains efficient to enable the movement of priority and essential containerized goods; this includes the movement of non-essential cargo to City Deep, only for purposes of decongesting the Port of Durban, .
  • The heavy haul rail and ports export system from the Northern Cape to the Port of Saldanha; and .
  • The domestic and export Coal and other GFB cargo through the Port of Richards Bay.

All other specific approvals granted by Government, which are dependent on the rest of the South African rail and ports system will be considered on a case by case basis, and our ability to respond responsibly will be communicated directly to customers making applications based on Government approvals granted.

Customers are to ensure thatall applications and evidence of approvals are submitted to the Transnet Customer Nerve Center via email at transnet.cnc@transnet.net

Commodity managers and key account executives normally dealing with each customer remains the primary point of contact and channel of communication with all our customers.

STEVEDORING OPERATIONS

DSC_8531The provision of Transnet’s service is subject to customers and their cargo handlers/siding operators taking necessary measures to protect Transnet staff who interface with their operations.

All port personnel (both Transnet, private stevedoring and any other category of employees) must have access to hygiene services, e.g. sanitation, soap and water which each employer shall cause to be provided together with standard operating procedures to ensure the highest hygiene practices.

This therefore means strict adherence to health and safety protocols will not be compromised. Customers must provide Transnet with the Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and update Transnet daily on the status of their employees.

VESSEL OPERATIONS

DSC_5977Masters are to ensure that where possible the following standards are adhered to by the ship’s officers and ratings:

  1. Social Distancing maintained (between 1-2 meters between persons) .
  2. Crew to follow hand hygiene protocols i.e. regular washing of hands (20 seconds or more) .
  3. Personal Protective Equipment to be utilised i.e. Face Masks, Gloves, Boiler Suites, Disposable Boiler Suits (where possible), Safety Boots, Hard Hats, Safety Glasses .
  4. Any medical condition that develops during the ports stay are to be reported to Port Health immediately, focusing specifically on the following symptoms:
  • Dry Cough
  • Consistent Fever (>38.5°C)
  • Difficulty in Breathing (severe cases)
  • Tiredness

If any crew member displays these symptoms, they are to be immediately isolated until advised otherwise by Port Health. Failure to comply may result in unduly delays to vessels in port or prevent cargo operations from continuing.

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE MARITIME NATIONAL JOINT OPERATIONS COMMITTEE (MNJOC) FOR THE COORDINATION OF THE MARITIME SECTOR DURING THE COVID 19 DISASTER MANAGEMENT

The Department of Transport has established a Maritime National Joint Operations Committee in order to coordinate the maritime sector for the period of the COVID 19 Disaster Management.

The MNJOC is linked to the National Command Council and comprises the following entities; Department of Transport, Transnet National Ports Authority, SAMSA and Ports Regulator

All queries related to the maritime sector during this period can be addressed to: mnjoc@samsa.org.za

(For the full and complete Marine Notice 21: 2020 please click the following link: http://www.samsa.org.za/Pages/Marine-Notices.aspx?RootFolder=%2FMarine%20Notices%2F2020&FolderCTID=0x0120003FE4AD37303F0248BE054A403FCF70C5&View=%7BF8CE201C%2DE919%2D4C08%2DB8DC%2DD9DD160A2FA2%7D)

End